Editor's Comment

Let there be WiFi

LUSAKA City is setting a fairly good pace for other locations in Zambia in moving with the times, positively. A case in point is the introduction of free WiFi in selected points of the city.
This is certainly a step in the right direction as the world is speedily moving towards technological advancements that enhance decision-making, implementation and monitoring.
With the city already ahead in other developments, it cannot afford to lag in the benefits of the internet.
Lusaka has been a major beneficiary of Government’s robust infrastructure programme such as roads under the L400 project, health facilities and water reticulation.
The city is now undergoing the second phase of the L400 project, which is designed to decongest traffic.
Just recently, Government launched the construction of Lusaka city roads, which will include fly-over bridges at various points, ring roads and overpasses valued at about US$300 million.
Yesterday, the capital city recorded yet another milestone on its transformation with the launch of the free WiFi by the mayor, Miles Sampa.
During the launch at the Civic Centre, Mr Sampa said hotspots will be located at various markets and bus stations which include the Inter-city bus terminus as well as City, Luburma and Kabwata markets.
Internet providers have shown interest in providing the service and different companies will be given different hotspots to provide WiFi.
Launched days after Government introduced a 30 ngwee tariff on internet calls, Lusaka residents and visitors to the capital city will be delighted to learn that there will be no cost to members of the public accessing internet at these hotspots because a business solution has been put in place which will see those advertising on the platform pay for the space.
The initiative by the local authority to come up with the innovation is long overdue and it should be a game changer for various users, as has been the case in countries where this model is in effect.
In Kenya and Rwanda, free WiFi has tremendously benefited a lot of people socially and economically. This has been especially so for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and students.
In Kenya, for instance, free WiFi has benefited job seekers, business owners, farmers and students, among others. They are able to quickly access information and communicate their needs which are in turn responded to just as quickly.
Socially, friends and families are able to table and resolve issues much quicker.
There is no reason why this cannot apply to Lusaka residents too, and eventually to the rest of the country. The key word is ‘Quick’. This, coupled with `quality’ information, should help accelerate development at a personal level as well as at a city level. The ripple effects would impact the rest of the country.
The key investment is having devices that are internet-abled. Providers of these devices are expected to see a boom in their businesses so they should readily help meet the costs of the `free’ WiFi.
We hope that many upcoming entrepreneurs with no access to the internet will now have an opportunity to transact and operate their businesses on the back of this support.
Costs of data or internet have dropped considerably in recent months, but is still too high for many people. This opportunity is one that should provide a turnaround for the better.
We hope that his initiative will be sustained and replicated. First of all in other locations in the city, and secondly in other districts across the country, not only in major cities, but also in emerging ones.
Local municipalities aspiring for city status should emulate Lusaka, which has now set the pace for creating a conducive environment for commerce and education.
If that is not done, Zambia will be promoting migration from rural provinces to Lusaka, all in search of free WiFi. This is not desirable.
Techmate Solutions, which is running the hotspot at the Lusaka City Council, has a huge challenge to prove that this is a worthy project.

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